French authorities are investigating the death of a man who may have been hit by a police rubber bullet during riots in Marseille, they said Wednesday.
The 27-year-old man was riding a scooter in the southern French port city overnight Saturday to Sunday during the height of rioting when he lost consciousness, fell, and was found dead shortly after.
France was hit by riots and looting after an officer killed 17-year-old Nahel M. during a June 27 traffic stop in a Paris suburb, rekindling long-standing accusations of systemic racism among security forces.
Marseille prosecutor Dominique Laurens said the scooter rider was believed to have suffered a heart attack after a “violent shock” consistent with the impact of a rubber bullet known as a “flashball,” used by French police, in the chest.
One police source told AFP that there had been no police near the site of the crash at the time, and that the investigation was trying to establish the man’s itinerary ahead of his death.
Emergency responders said on the weekend they believed the man had suddenly fallen ill when they were called out to the scene, and that there had been no scenes of tension between rioters and police nearby.
But Laurens, while on Tuesday announcing an investigation into “death involving the use of a weapon,”said that there had been rioting and looting in the area.
He said it was “probable” that the man’s death had been caused by the impact of a rubber bullet on the chest.
It had not been possible to pinpoint his location at the time of the suspected impact, nor was it known whether he had participated in any clashes, “or whether he was even in the area” at the time.
Both regular police and internal affairs units have been charged with the investigation.